Upcoming Reviews (7/1 - 7/7)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 3:53 AM | Posted in

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The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)
AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004) vs. Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2007)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:27 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 3.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) - Timur Bekmambetov

Abraham Lincoln is one of America's most beloved presidents. He successfully led his country through its greatest constitutional, military and moral crisis: The American Civil War. He preserved the Union while ending slavery. He promoted economic and financial modernization. He slaughtered countless numbers of bloodthirsty vampires.

What in the name of Lincoln is wrong with this picture?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was based on a 2010 book written by renowned author Seth Grahame-Smith. For people unfamiliar with the author, Grahame-Smith is known for satirical works that take historical aspects and flip them upside down, twisted in a blender. Most notable for his earlier novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the unique author took this idea of "playing with history" and applied it to one of our greatest presidents. However, this time it is even more ludicrous, and I thought Cowboys & Aliens from last year was a ridiculous title. Abraham Lincoln, old Honest Abe, as a hunter of the undead? What's next? George Washington is a werewolf? Oh, I got it. Thomas Jefferson was assisted by extraterrestrial aliens to write the Declaration of Independence. Give me a break.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter begins with our fellow Honest Abe as a child living in Indiana with his parents, Nancy and Thomas. He befriends a young African American boy, William Johnson, and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slave owner. Because of Lincoln's actions, his father is fired by his plantation owner, Barts, who demands that he pay his debts to him. When Lincoln's father refuses, Barts "collects the debt" by attacking Nancy, who dies by a strange illness the next day. Witnessing that it was Barts who poisoned his mother, Lincoln lived the next nine years seeking vengeance. 18-year old Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) attacks Barts at the docks, only to realize that he is a vampire. But soon enough, Lincoln is rescued by a man named Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who reveals that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln how to become a vampire hunter. After ten years of training, Lincoln travels to Springfield, Illinois, where the film chronicles his experience in slaying vampires. The bloody stakes are raised when Lincoln marries Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and fights the political battle of the Civil War.

I have never seen Benjamin Walker in a film before, and I was very reluctant to see how he would portray our favorite president. In all honesty, his towering height and serious yet friendly face exhibits the "common people" persuasion of a politician. His appearance, tone, and attitude bears wisdom and power, a younger version of Liam Neeson. As for his axe-swinging, that's a different story.

Coincidentally, the actress here who portrays Mary Todd is also named Mary. With experience in seeing her in Live Free or Die HardScott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the 2011 remake of The Thing, I am a devoted fan to Winstead's talent. Like other competent actresses, Winstead delivers more (with facial expressions) than the resources that she is given (dialogue). Appearance-wise, Winstead suits Lincoln's wife very well. With a face that fits the old times, all she needs is practical clothing and naturalistic makeup, which I pronounced as "Oscar-worthy."

As visceral as the vampires themselves, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter takes the audience in the world of the 1800s, and the first thing a filmgoer will notice is the amount of attention it pays on location and art direction. The sets are exquisitely designed, equivalent to the realistic portrayal of London in Sherlock Holmes. The costumes are ornate, dresses to suits, bearing the sense of old patriots. As for makeup, this film can be the next contender for the Academy Award.

Timur Bekmambetov's previous film was the 2008 film Wanted. If you have seen Wanted, and was infatuated by the slow-motion techniques and stylish action sequences, then you are in for a bloody treat. In my experience of watching movies, slow-motion used to be a fashionable approach to make a film more enjoyable, but now it has become a gimmick. One of the worst directors to abuse and butcher this technique is Zack Snyder, a hack who overuses and molests slow-motion, slow movements and speed up on impact. Ever since 2007, every film by Snyder had this element, a sign that makes it easy to tell which film belongs to Snyder. (300WatchmenLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'HooleSucker Punch). I am pretty sure that his upcoming Superman film Man of Steel will not be any different. It was not until last year when the original creator of slow-motion, Guy Ritchie, brought the true purpose of slow-motion to life with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Back to Vampire Hunter, it is noticeable here that Bekmambetov has taken notes in Ritchie's films, and has taken Ritchie's visual strengths and his own strengths and applied it here in Abraham Lincoln. With a combination of smoke, dust, and depth within each shot of a fight scene, Bekmambetov fleshed out every vampire-slaughtering sequence with much vision and talent. Soon enough, before you know it, you will be cheering for Lincoln massacring those bloodsuckers. Speaking of bloodsuckers, they do not sparkle in this movie. These are the real deal: Savage and die-hard thirsty.

Surprisingly, Vampire Hunter is an early American-era thriller with a rather intelligent range of historical accuracy, combining what is real and what is fictional, similar to the success in National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code. Imagine for a second that Lincoln's second son "Willie," who died of unconfirmed typhoid fever, was actually killed by a vampire. Imagine that the South was originally winning over the North because their army soldiers consisted of immortal vampires. Imagine that the Underground Railroad was built to not only transport slaves, but also to transport weaponry made out of silver, the only thing that can kill a vampire. Equipped with silver bullets, the Union defeated the vampire Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg, turning the tide of the Civil War. It may sound ridiculous…. but that's because it is. However, it is ridiculously appealing, the most aberrant guilty pleasure I have ever experienced in a movie. Historians, have a cup of tea and take a break. The rewriting of history in this piece is so twisted and witty that it makes logical sense, an alternative but far more entertaining spin on the Civil War period.

In its release, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the new Cowboys & Aliens, a ridiculous title with a ridiculous premise. Well, I promise you. If you are going into a theater to watch a film about Abraham Lincoln as a hunter of the undead, you are going to get what you expect, and more. To quote Roger Ebert: "What it achieves is a surprisingly good job of doing justice to its title, and treating Lincoln with as much gravity as we can expect, under the circumstances." Unfortunately, unlike Ebert, several critics railed against the film for having an "overly serious tone [that] doesn't jibe with its decidedly silly central premise, leaving filmgoers with an unfulfilling blend of clashing ingredients." We live in a world where the unconventional is almost automatically not welcome. But movies are supposed to be plain fictional stories that can engage us and grab our interest for two hours. In Chinese culture, writers have long taken famous historical figures and throw them into a fictional story. Is it wrong to have a ridiculous but purely original idea here? Absolutely not. As long as the film is committed to its substance from beginning to end, it gets the job done. As for us, the audience, we all need to learn how to open up to new movie ideas, no matter how silly they can be. To quote the fictional critic Anton Ego: "The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends."

In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has quenched my thirst, and I am deeply satisfied. Its sequences may be preposterous but it is undeniably exciting and electrifying to watch. If you are one of the forgiving few who had a good time watching Cowboys & Aliens last year, this one is far superior. It is fully devoted to its narrative from the very beginning, faithful to its material and takes off when it is time to. Still, to myself, I am having a hard time believing that these words are coming out of my mouth: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a good movie." Overall, the film was far more entertaining than I ever expected and surpassed my standards of a film with such a ridiculous title, proving the saying that we should never "judge a book by its cover." It is an unforeseen well-made movie that accomplished what it set out to achieve, being a vampire film that you can eagerly sink your teeth into. Finally, if you choose to watch Vampire Hunter, which I highly recommend you should, be sure to stay during the credits for the Linkin Park song. With innovative end credits that express creativity and a song that thoroughly fits the entire film's atmosphere, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter presented me with a sense to call my favorite musical band: "Lincoln Park."

Prometheus (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:14 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.3/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

PROMETHEUS (2012) - Ridley Scott

Where did we come from? Who created us? How did our civilization even start? These are some of the greatest wonders of humankind: The truth about our origin. This is what the crew of Prometheus came to accomplish, to "search for our beginning." But what they found "could be our end."

Ridley Scott, one of the pioneers of science fiction alongside Stanley Kubrick, has come back from historical films like Gladiator and Robin Hood to create a new dimension in the science fiction universe of the Alien franchise. Advertised as a prequel, Prometheus was promoted as the prequel of the first Alien film, explaining the origin of the xenomorph species as well as the identification of the "space jockey" and peculiar looking ship.

Prometheus is set in the year 2089, following archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) as they discover a star map among several unconnected ancient civilizations. They interpret this as an invitation from what they believe to be humanity's forerunners, the "Engineers." Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223. Monitoring the voyage throughout is the android David (Michael Fassbender), directing the mission is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and the captain of the ship is Janek (Idris Elba). What the crew finds on LV-223 is more than just the "Engineers," but a whole new hostile species as well.

Hotly anticipated ever since its promotion, Prometheus was severely pressured as being the film responsible for answering all the questions ever asked from the original Alien movie. For the demanding fans, you are not gonna get what you want. Instead of answering the questions, Prometheus provides even more questions, possibly confusing the audience. Logical sense-wise, the film works. It is just not proper to say that the movie is "complete," with no holes. This can easily disappoint the hardcore answer seekers. From the Boston Globe, the film is like "opening a deluxe gift box from Tiffany's to find a mug from the dollar store."

However, if one throws away the vibe of the Alien franchise and pays more attention on Ridley Scott's direction, Prometheus still bears its compelling power of magnetism, dragging the audience into the far reaches of space and intensify our hearts by plunging us into the darkest of black holes. In terms of a film's substance, Prometheus has an excellent cast, though inevitably inferior to the original Nostromo crew. Rapace is the new Ellen Ripley, lovable and gripping to follow, a powerful impression left by Sigourney Weaver years ago. Elba, being the loyal captain he is and at the same time bearing a sense of humor, reminds me a lot of Yaphet Kotto in the original 1979 classic. They look alike in appearance yet this new African American figure bears his own originality. Fassbender, according to critics, pulled off the most acclaimed performance in the entire film. Although his acting is consistent and fluent, his character is much too similar to Bishop in the 1986 sequel Aliens. Nevertheless, as a whole, the cast of Prometheus is also mature in age, an easy feat to achieve by talented Ridley Scott.

Like always, Ridley Scott paid much attention to art direction and set design in his science fiction films. The entire ship is designed like the most futuristic work station for a crew. For my personal taste in future technology, the style Scott approached in Blade Runner was much more appropriate. Despite the characters live in the future, there is a sense that the future equipment has already been used a lot, as if the technology already exists today. In my past review of Alien: "The characters [are shown] within the bowels of the ship, sweating and occupied with their chores. The environment holds a mix of science fiction gothic and a series of furnitures and devices that we see in our everyday lives." Even though the gadgets' mechanical designs are intriguing and eye-opening, they bear too large of a fictional sense, as if Ridley Scott here is demonstrating his inner fanboy to James Cameron's Avatar. All the gizmos and fancy contraptions serve little, nothing but intricate decorations on an already delicious cake.

Going back to the possible negativities of the film, Prometheus, as I stated before, does not have the answers that we all yearn for. Instead, it breaks the foreground and asks us questions back. I reiterate: The clamorous fans are going to be frustrated. Now this is for all the people who either want to see this movie or have already seen it: Think for a moment. Imagine you are in the year 1979, when Alien first came out. How many questions did you have? A great quantity. Imagine you are in the year 1968 when Stanley Kubrick first released 2001: A Space Odyssey. How many questions did you have? A great quantity. In fact, I will further say that if one does not do any film analysis, Space Odyssey will bore people with its cold lifeless atmosphere. In Ridley Scott's Alien, who sent the distress signal to the Nostromo? Where did the aliens come from? What was Weyland Corporation planning? Take Blade Runner. Is it wrong to enslave replicants? Can we truly trust our memories? Is Deckard, the protagonist, a replicant himself? Some of cinema's greatest science fiction contenders leave us, the audience, with a whole galaxy of questions. Are they made to have immediate answers? In this critic's opinion, absolutely not, and in fact, the unanswered questions are some of the core elements that drive these films forward. From Roger Ebert's words, "[Prometheus is] intriguing because it raises questions about the origin of human life and doesn't have the answers." We think about these questions more after viewing. We develop our own answers. We have our own interpretations of the film itself as well as our own world. Ambiguity at its most powerful.

In conclusion, Prometheus might eventually become another classic in the science fiction genre. Living up to its hype, the movie dazzles with brilliant cinematography, production design, and visual effects. It has a good spectrum of spectacles to behold alongside tense action and vigorous moments. It may leave the audience befuddled with uncertainty and lust for more, but this time, obscurity comes forth as a strength rather than weakness. Speaking of "lust for more," Prometheus might open up to a new pre-Alien franchise, and with this film as its beginning, I love where this possible new series is heading. With a new dimension of themes involving faith and humanity, Prometheus begins with insightful dedication and carries on as an adrenaline-rushed thriller in space, truly expressing again the prominent phrase: "In space, no one can hear you scream."

Brave (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 12:50 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

BRAVE (2012) - Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

In old times, stories were always told of children rebelling against their strict and dominating parents. Through these strenuous affairs of arguing and fighting, the conflict eventually bonds the child and parent together closer than ever. In Chinese culture, this story was expressed through The Joy Luck Club, a narrative revolving around several mothers and daughters. In India, this story was presented by The Namesake. Now, in 2012, we are greeted with the same ordinary story and moral. This time as an animated film…. from Pixar Animation Studios.

Brave is set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland, where a skilled archer named Merida (Kelly Macdonald) defies an age-old custom after living her life under the hands of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), causing chaos to spill in her kingdom. After consulting a witch for help, her family becomes cursed and Merida is forced to undo the spell herself before it is too late.

The animation in Brave is impressive yet oddly different from the style Pixar executes. According to the studio, the film possessed far more complex visuals that were impossible to create, forcing Pixar to rewrite their animation system for the first time in 25 years. Although Merida's hair, the shrubs on the dirt, and the water all look magnificent, the characters all bear a close resemblance to our fellow Vikings in the 2010 DreamWorks film How To Train Your Dragon.

The film's background takes place in Scotland, which means every character really does have a Scottish accent. In the beginning, it might take a little time to get used to it, since the film is narrated by a female Mel Gibson from Braveheart, but eventually it might grow on the audience. 

In the filmography of Pixar Studios, every film needs a screen duo, and each duo has its own originality. In Brave, there is only Merida. In terms of characterization, only Merida and her mother are interesting to follow. For the female lead, she is presented to the audience as a young lady who is neither cute nor pretty, with hair that is both curly and straight, as if never combed. For a Pixar film, Brave already went towards being unorthodox, as if Disney asked Pixar to introduce the next Disney Princess. Every Pixar lead is lovable in some way. They attract us physically and then appeal to us mentally. With personalities fully fleshed out, each Pixar lead is a beloved addition to the memorable characters list. Though Merida in Brave is enough to manage, there is a sense that Merida does not even belong on the Pixar leads list, which brings me to one of the main elements that drag Brave down.

As an animated film, Brave sits as more of a DreamWorks film than a Pixar film. The story is way more simplistic, predictable, and lacks the insightful depth that every Pixar film has accomplished before. For adults and demanding filmgoers, Brave will be undoubtedly disappointing, possibly even more disheartening than Cars 2, which I thoroughly enjoyed in contrast to its negative reviews. Going back to How To Train Your Dragon and pretty much every other DreamWorks film: Brave has a similar moral, connections between mother and daughter, compared to father and son. The animation style looks extremely similar, with majority of the scenes having a lot of brown and grey, not colorful to the eye. And finally, there are a lot of meaningless characters who are just present for comic relief. 

Take a good Disney film: Beauty and the Beast. The candle, clock, and teapot are all comic relief characters for the younger audience members, but at the end of the day, they all have a purpose in the storyline: To help the Beast fix himself so he can transform back into a human. The funny moments and amusements come later, enhancing the experience of the characters' actual goals. Here in Brave, a lot of the funny characters have no goals and are almost as if just "thrown in there to get a few laughs." Speaking of laughs, the children will get great laughs out of this, but probably only children in their elementary school years. The humor is mostly physical, crude, and if taken the literal way, silly and immature. The inventiveness and delight that drove all the Pixar films is clearly missing here, or done in an entirely divergent manner. If somebody randomly shows me Ratatouille, I can easily tell that it is a Pixar film. If somebody randomly shows me Brave, I can honestly say that I would be fooled to think that it is a DreamWorks film.

However, if one is forgiving enough to back up and just take a good look at Brave as an animated film alone, it is still a pretty well-made movie. Despite its familiar storyline and predictable ending, there is no question that it is well paced and well combined with a Scottish background. With fluent 3D animation, Brave manages to invite less demanding filmgoers to an intriguing fantasy adventure. Its target audience, though, is definitely kids ten and under, even though the actual content is more mature than WALL-E.

In conclusion, Brave is fine, perfectly adequate as an animated film alone. It offers enough engagement to fun-seeking fans but undeniably falls behind the other Pixar films. For the people who are desiring another Pixar groundbreaker, I am afraid to say that you will not find it here. Our favorite directors of Pixar, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Brad Bird, are pushed aside and replaced by a new crew of folks who are either unfamiliar with the way Pixar films work or they are past workers at DreamWorks Animation. From the Boston Globe, "We would expect this kind of overstuffed joyride from DreamWorks Animation or the folks at Fox or even Disney itself. But it's terribly ordinary for Pixar." Parallel to animated shows, Brave in relations to Pixar is like the new decade of Tom and Jerry episodes/movies that are no longer produced by Fred Quimby. But at the same time, Brave is not a bad movie. Not at all. Its charm and commitment to its content can keep the young ones eager for a second viewing. For the older ones who hate to wreck their image of Pixar Animation, you will have to be brave to put the "Pixar vibe" aside.

Upcoming Reviews (6/22 - 6/25)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:11 PM | Posted in

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Brave (2012)
Prometheus (2012)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Snow White & the Huntsman (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:46 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 4.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 5/10

SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (2012) - Rupert Sanders

The mesmerizing Charlize Theron, aided by a striking dress and dazzling design, paces towards the golden Magic Mirror. Her beauty, as actress and as fictional queen, lights up the chamber like the very particles of air. With a slow ease, she enunciates, "Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is fairest of them all?" The Mirror squeezes its interiors into a golden liquid, oozing down the stairs and rising up to meet the ravishing female. In a stance of cloaked gold, the Mirror speaks, "You are the fairest. But there is one named Kristen Stewart destined to surpass you."

Now either the Mirror is blinded by horrific perception or the filmmakers of Snow White & the Huntsman are trying to be offensive pranksters, to say that Kristen Stewart is prettier than Charlize Theron.

Snow White & the Huntsman begins by narrating Snow White's (Kristen Stewart) past and how the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) came to power. Fifteen years in holding the young girl captive, Ravenna senses that her power is waning, the source being Snow White, claimed by the Mirror as both the Queen's ruin and salvation. Soon enough, the princess escapes and finds herself chased into the Dark Forest, where the Queen's men lose her trail. Powerless in the Dark Forest, Ravenna orders the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to lead her men into the Forest to pursue Snow White. However, things turn around when the Huntsman helps Snow White escape and assists her in leading a rebellious army against the Queen and her ruined kingdom.

On a technical basis, Snow White & the Huntsman is gorgeous and haunting to look at. As if directed by Tim Burton himself, the film's appearance is efficiently enhanced by crisp lighting, memorable cinematography, stirring visuals, weighty costumes, realistic makeup, and monumental set designs. In simple words, the film bears everything that a good movie needs. Although the musical atmosphere of the film barely takes flight (Better luck next time, James Newton Howard), the conceptual designs of creatures and magic can intrigue the eyes enough. Despite the original fairy tale being cheerful and merry for the children, Snow White & the Huntsman offers a unique dark take on it, and it works too. However, I would stress that the dark factor of this film does not feel like Tim Burton (Beetlejuice), but more like Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). The creatures are both beautiful and grotesque, marvelous yet familiar at times. In spite of the monsters bearing strong resemblance to creatures in Pan's Labyrinth and even Princess Mononoke, they are placed in great sceneries, loaded with vividly imaginative images to please the visual lovers. In summary, Snow White & the Huntsman might just be another contender for the next Academy Award of Art Direction.

Nevertheless, even though the film looks great, it struggles severely in covering up the weaknesses of its narrative, characters, and direction. Plot-wise, it is aesthetic to learn how the Queen came to be, but in summary, the story is over complicated, stuck in mud from beginning to end. Its narrative never rose and never fell, just one continuous flat line with no intensity nor momentum, one event after another. It lacks rhythm, transition, and elegance. The "magic" of the film's storytelling is not as lively as the visual tricks it plays. It begins with thoughtful plot devices, but Sanders unfortunately does not know how to execute with them. The film is filled with inventiveness and creativity, but it is clumped together into a junkyard mess. If you want to start boldly, you have to finish boldly. Even worse, the plot of Snow White & the Huntsman misleads. With Theron's surprising overacting, the film is almost suggesting for us to sympathize her. Her cries of hate and her desperate need of Snow White's heart are expressed in a disproportionate fashion, hyperbolic in their own way, losing the intimidating impression of a female tyrant. With several implications and tie-ins between the Queen and Snow White that never get fully explained, the story of Snow White & the Huntsman is anything but simplistic.

Theron is a talented actress, but troubled by a weak script and unskillful direction, not even she can fully flesh out the oppressive aspects of the Queen. As for Hemsworth, his blend of naturalism still convinces the audience for his character, but his familiar dialogue gives his axe-swinging stance a resemblance to the hammer-swinging god of thunder Thor. The huntsman is a unique figure, an unconventional character that we follow. But here, when the film has a chance to augment someone new, it instead drags itself with under-development, eventually causing the Huntsman's personality to become misinterpreted, confusing, and sometimes even illogical. Now for the classic miscasting: Kristen Stewart.

I already mentioned how laughable it is that Kristen Stewart is the fairest one of all, even fairer than Charlize Theron. Not surprising at all, Stewart still could not get out of Twilight-mode, in which she has only one expression throughout the entire film. The more ludicrous element here is that Stewart plays Snow White, known as "The Chosen One," the one who is destined to end the darkness and rid the world of the wretched Queen. With Stewart's dull acting, Snow White & the Huntsman tells the audience that she is the most valuable figure in the film's universe without showing us why or how. We all know Snow White is an exquisite princess in which life sparks in her presence. Here, there is nothing exquisite about Kristen Stewart's Snow White. In fact, there is no Snow White in this movie, the red apple lost significance, and the seven dwarves have no purpose, which makes me question what kind of audience this film was aiming for from the very beginning. From the words of Leonard Maltin: "Is it a date movie? I don't think so. It's really not for children, either, unless they happen to be members of the Addams Family." With no substance and a tedious middle act, Snow White & the Huntsman ranks as one of the few films where I felt the desire to walk out of the theater. Worse, the tone of the film almost demands my attention without being fully aware of its own boredom.

This is Rupert Sanders' first film, a debut from a director known for making television commercials. As a debut, Snow White & the Huntsman still has its cinematic value. Like Ebert's words, the movie "reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination." However, at the same time, the film exposes flaws so clearly that it delivers the message to the audience that this is indeed a director's debut. With a mystifying script, puzzling content, and a lead actress who does not even act as if she belongs in the medieval world, Snow White & the Huntsman is heavily flawed in its substance even when it leaves a sensational impression.

In conclusion, Snow White & the Huntsman is a middling fantasy. It is fully equipped with graceful visuals, one of the most good-looking films of 2012. For the audience members craving for a good live action adaptation, this is as good as it can get visually. Storytelling wise, this is plain unacceptable. The slow and boring narrative is one of several elements that sucks the life out of this piece with so much potential. As a debut, Snow White & the Huntsman reveals clear evidence that Rupert Sanders is still a novice in the filmmaking industry, but it comes forth with so much creative power and high-budget effects that it may pass by certain people's attention. Like Travers' words: "[Snow White & the Huntsman is] definitely a missed opportunity. Director Rupert Sanders loses his nerve just when the story starts cooking." Then again, there is enough eye candy to quench the thirst of the less-demanding filmgoers. But there is one thing about Snow White & the Huntsman that is undeniable: Kristen Stewart is not and never will be fairer than Charlize Theron.

Men in Black III (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:52 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

MEN IN BLACK III (2012) - Barry Sonnenfeld

The stage is set. The lights are down, replaced with constant strobe lights engulfing the shooting gallery. There is a handgun on the table. You, a soldier, spontaneously hoist the weapon towards the distance as the blazing alarm sets off, launching several cardboard displays of extraterrestrial aliens at your sight. Without hesitating, you pull the trigger at the unfamiliar creatures. But a smart-mouthed man next to you, a rookie police officer, shoots an innocent girl display instead. To his logic, he refused to kill a muscular alien brute hanging from a street light since he is just "working out." Of course, how would you like it if somebody comes running into the gym and "bust you in your ass while you're on a treadmill?" Unorthodox from the practices of the US Marines and Navy Seals yet respects the presence of alien life within our world, James Edwards passed his qualification exam and became a member of the unknown society Men in Black.

Men in Black was a game-changer, a pioneer in science fiction filmmaking where it introduced the idea of extraterrestrial life already living in our world while a secret society shields us from ever knowing their existence. Our protagonist pair is Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and rookie Agent J (Will Smith), protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe.

Men in Black strived with its creativity and fast-paced humor. Though it lacks storytelling depth, it makes up its flaws with an infectious spectrum of zany jokes and eye-popping visuals. It is a quirky movie, phenomenal for the adults and science fiction fans, but maybe terrifying for younger audience members.

With a box office performance of over $500 million against a $95 million budget, Men in Black inevitably received a sequel, a lousy one. With recycled jokes and more disgusting alien designs, Men in Black II came forth as a movie that is more appalling than it is appealing. Virtually identical to its predecessor five years ago, Men in Black II falls into the pit of formula-replicating madness, lacking rhythm, wit, and originality.

It has been ten years since another Men in Black film came out, and we were left with a disappointed state for those years. Finally a third film was announced, same cast and same director. Again, in response to hearing a sequel's release, I ask the question: What is the story about? To say I am disappointed with the result is a little too vague, for Men in Black III's storyline toys with the formulaic idea of time traveling. The two most cliche plot points just had to go together: Aliens + time travel. This cannot get any more hopeless for the Men in Black franchise. I walked into the theater expecting nothing, and I was surprisingly disgusted by the film's first act.

Out of all things to throw into a second sequel, Men in Black III just had to come up with an even more repulsive villain conceptually. With a disappointing and severely ugly first act, the film exposes its screenplay at its worst. After presenting mildly offensive themes to the Chinese, Men in Black III hustles its narrative with noise, messy visuals, and wheezy humor. Will Smith, my favorite African American actor, has lost his touch. His fast-paced improvisation-like dialogue no longer exists here, as if he ran out of ideas, trying to squeeze a funny line through. Tommy Lee Jones, despite his funny accent and consistent straight face, critically unveils his old age. With the used-to-be-memorable chemistry missing, the pair seems to be just standing in front of the camera, unaware of what to do next, unsure how to carry the plot forward. This strength was the very crux of the original film, and here it is lost in the drain, regurgitated back out of an alien fish.

However, to my greatest amazement, Men in Black III somehow pulls itself together starting the second act. Clever enough, Sonnenfeld chooses the year 1969 for Agent J to go back to. Imminent to the Apollo 11 lunar rocket launch, the background environment of the second and third act all belong in a more open-minded setting. Surprisingly, this is where the jokes start to get legitimately funny. They are ironic, dramatic in which we as audience members know the context of the situations but the characters themselves do not. With finally found creativity, Men in Black III quickly begins to crawl out of the hole it dug itself in.

Josh Brolin impersonating Tommy Lee Jones is phenomenal and is the greatest strength in Men in Black III. His act itself is what makes the film worth watching. With his straight face and his hilariously accurate voice, Brolin revives the chemistry between Smith and Jones. As a result, the charms are back and the characters are charismatic once again in addition to a conclusion that satisfies my expectations, possibly even going beyond them. Furthermore, I like to stress on the fact that I was enthusiastic over the missing appearance of the talking dog that infected the second film. However, I was disheartened by the replacement of MIB head Zed, Emma Thompson as Agent O. Very disheartened.

In conclusion, Men in Black III is fairly watchable. After suffering a messy and unorganized first act, the film manages to pull its strings together and deliver a film better than its predecessor, thanks to more creativity, a fine performance by Brolin, and still a little sense of intelligence. It lacks the silliness that drove its predecessors, but at least it does not risk falling into the silliness itself and losing focus on its narrative. It finally lowers down the nastiness of the aliens and increases the humanity stories with thematic materials that make us think, discuss, and re-interpret. A clear improvement over Men in Black II, but inevitably inferior to the original source material. Nevertheless, it is reasonably entertaining, a partial return of the franchise, inventive but still not enough to make me desire a second viewing or another sequel. From the Washington Post, "It's hard to imagine [a Men in Black IV] -- let's hope it finds that delicate balance between the yuks and the yucks."

Battleship (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 12:48 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 3.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 4/10

BATTLESHIP (2012) - Peter Berg

Before the first World War, there existed a monumental guessing game called "Battleship." It consisted as a pencil and paper game designed for two players. Both players are given five ships total (aircraft carrier, battleship, submarine, destroyer, and patrol boat) and must place them in any random coordinates. The goal of the game is to destroy all of your opponents ships before he/she destroys yours. It is a game of strategy and luck. Years later, this popular 1940s game was converted into a board game involving ship pieces and hit marks. To this day, "Battleship" remains as one of the most classic and compelling games ever. Now let me ask a perfectly legit question: How do you take a board game like "Battleship" and turn it into a movie?

The first curiosity that struck to my head was the storyline. A movie based on a two-player game, then what can the story possibly be about? The answer is the appallingly cliche word that the movie industry today has used countless times to avoid a plausible narrative: Aliens.

Battleship comes forth similar to another Michael Bay film, a thinly written movie with loud explosions and a parade of visual effects. It revolves around Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), a US Navy Tactical Action Officer who bears a horrible reputation for "screwing himself over." Working for the commander of the fleet, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), Alex and his crew discover what appears to be alien ships emerging from the water. The film follows the fleet of ships attempting to destroy this incoming alien invasion.

Taylor Kitsch, previously seen in John Carter, is as stiff as a rock here, with one consistent expression throughout the entire movie like another Jason Statham. Though Rihanna delivered a surprisingly decent performance, I still would like to know who came up with the idea of casting her. One sigh of relief is that at least there is no song performed by Rihanna heard in the soundtrack. Good work, Jablonsky. Liam Neeson is middling, not because of his performance, but because of his acts being restricted by horrid screenplay.

For a movie that is designed just for entertainment, would you believe me if I tell you that not one single alien is seen until approximately forty minutes in, not to mention a lame forty minutes? With an elongated running time to develop characterization, Battleship quickly exposes its first flaw: the writing. The dialogue is flat-out sloppy, blunt, direct, and un-sophisticated as if written by a middle school student. With this dreadful attempt to create a story underneath this silliness, Battleship surprisingly takes forever to get going, have its conflict take flight. With a poorly executed screenplay, Battleship already lost my interest within fifteen minutes, let alone forty to introduce the aliens. After hitting the 30-minute mark of interest, one would already grumble, "Just get them out there already and fight the aliens. I don't want to hear this story anymore. It's boring, stock, and uninteresting." The worst thing about Battleship's narrative is that once the aliens actually do appear, one would no longer find it exciting, because the previous forty minutes have already bored them to a stage of weariness and even sleepiness.

The humor is not funny, sporadically placed, and scattered throughout with no connection nor fluency. It is a mishmash of misfires. Everything a narrative can go wrong goes wrong here. Furthermore, if one has seen the trailers, one might have predicted that the aliens were hiding under the sea for years. Looks like Peter Berg gave us the wrong impression, for the aliens show up and crash into the sea in the movie at the present day. One might argue that I am giving out a spoiler, but I am honorably giving this information to, as I call it, "warn people away."

In conclusion, Battleship does not sail for long. There is a spectrum of action-packed flicks that serve no plot, only nonsensical noise. They have only one goal: to throw "cool stuff" at the audience and have them lose a few brain cells willingly. Sometimes they are tolerable, entertaining forms of cacophonies. For a movie like Transformers, at least there is something to "ooh and aah" about. Take away the limping story in Battleship, and the rest of the film stands like one of those flicks. But it does not achieve that goal either. Even at an entertainment foundation, it wobbles back and forth like a rookie circus performer balancing on a tightrope. Even with impressive visual effects and set pieces, they could not save Battleship from its cinematic formula and horrendous dialogue. In terms of a film, from the words of Peter Travers, "It is all noise and crashing metal," and in terms of the original classic game, this film was a complete "misfire."

Upcoming Reviews (6/1 - 6/3)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 4:06 PM | Posted in

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Battleship (2012)
Men in Black III + Previous 2 films (2012)